Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: "This Song Will Save Your Life" by Leila Sales

Wow, I loved this book. If you've ever felt like you don't fit in, or that no one understands who you really are, this book is for you.

Elise Dembowski has never quite gotten it right, socially speaking. Deemed a social misfit through no real fault of her own (except she's driven to try to hard), she's never really had any friends, and she's been the butt of every joke. Ostracized in every way, she has always turned to music for comfort, feeling secure with her headphones on and music playing.

"I was born to be unpopular. There was no other way it could have gone."

The summer before her sophomore year of high school, she is determined that this year will be different. She spends the entire summer studying the latest trends, the latest gossip about fashion, celebrities, and music, and spends more money than she'd like on trendier clothes. Yet when the first day of school arrives, she's virtually ignored by her classmates, and it becomes too much to bear.

"They will still see past that, see you, the girl who is still too scared, still too smart for her own good, still a beat behind, still, always, wrong. Change all you want; you can't change that. I know because I tried."

Nearly at the end of her rope, one night she accidentally discovers Start, an underground dance party. No one there knows her, and, more importantly, the people she meets seem to like her. Before long she is sneaking out of her mother's house every Thursday night to attend Start, and starts to develop some friendships—with Vicky, the confident singer who knows all too well what Elise has gone through; Pippa, a confident, cocky English girl and Vicky's best friend; and Char, a cute DJ who takes Elise under his wing.

It is at Start that Elise starts to blossom and feel more confident. Even though the rest of her life continues in the same fashion it always has, at Start, she is accepted, because no one knows the way she has been treated all these years. Char teaches her how to DJ, and she takes a shine to it—and to Char. But of course, she begins to realize that finally being accepted, finding friends as well as something that you love to do all comes with a price, and rules you never realized you had to be mindful of. And once again, Elise struggles with the isolation of high school and feeling like no one truly knows or understands the real her.

I thought this was pretty excellent. I certainly identified with some of the feelings Elise had and understood her isolation, loneliness, and lack of self-worth, so the story really resonated for me. The characters were clever and complex without being stereotypical teens, and they weren't too quirky—everything that happened was completely believable. Leila Sales really did a great job hooking me almost instantaneously on Elise's story, and I read the entire book in a little more than a day. (Of course, I was sad once I finished, because I could have spent more time with these characters.)

This Song Will Save Your Life is another example of how excellent the young adult genre is these days. I never once felt like the book was below my comprehension level, and it didn't seem necessarily geared to a younger reader. If you know how Elise felt, you'll be moved by this book. So glad I read it. While this book didn't save my life, it impacted me, even in a small way.

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